Beyond the legacy of absolutism: re-examining Jean Bodin’s idea of anti-tyranny violence

Jiangmei Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The longstanding debate over Jean Bodin’s (1530–1596) Six Books of a Commonweale—whether it championed an ideology of absolutism or pioneered a normative doctrine of the modern sovereign state—has profoundly influenced our understanding of Bodin’s intellectual legacy. This article challenges the influential absolutist reading by re-examining Bodin’s ideas of violence against tyrants. Proponents of the absolutist interpretation often view Bodin’s rejection of resistance against the tyrant as compelling evidence of his defense of absolutism, suggesting that this stance negates the constitutional constraints imposed by fundamental and natural laws on the sovereign. However, this article contends that such a reading is overly simplistic. A closer analysis of Bodin’s nuanced perspective reveals that he does not remove the constitutional limitations established by both fundamental and natural laws. Instead, Bodin posits that sovereigns who violate these higher laws could face either domestic resistance or a just war of punishment. Thus, labeling Bodin merely as an absolutist ideologue is inappropriate, as it risks overshadowing the profound intellectual legacy he offers as a serious political thinker, jurist, and the father of modern state theory.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalThe European Legacy
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date13 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jun 2024


  • Jean Bodin
  • Natural law
  • Fundamental law
  • Violence
  • Tyrants


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